E.g., 11/24/2014
E.g., 11/24/2014

The Relationship Between Immigration and Nativism in Europe and North America

Reports
May 2012

The Relationship Between Immigration and Nativism in Europe and North America

This report, part of a Transatlantic Council on Migration series on national identity in the age of migration, focuses on the effects of migration on political extremism of the host population in three industrialized regions: North America, Western Europe, and Central and Eastern Europe. The author, political scientist Cas Mudde, explores various nativist reactions, analyzes the role of migration in the identity and discourse of nativist actors, examines the public effects of these actors and their impact on migration policies, and summarizes the ways in which states and societies have responded to anti-immigrant extremism.

Findings indicate that the most extreme reactions to immigration and migrants are fomented by the radical right. Although the rise of radical-right parties is considered to be closely linked to the phenomenon of mass migration, the report argues that such assumptions are based upon feeble empirical evidence. Despite North America’s long history of mass migration, neither the United States nor Canada has a relevant radical-right party. Meanwhile, in Central and Eastern Europe where more radical-right government participation has been seen, immigration appears to be a nonissue on the political agenda due to relatively low immigration levels. The most significant extremist reactions appear to come from radical-right wing parties in Western Europe.

While migration patterns may not drive radical-right voting, the report finds that immigration as a political issue does seem to play an important role in the electoral strength of nativist parties when framed as a threat on cultural, religious, security, economic, and political fronts. The report suggests, however, that neither increasing immigration levels nor the electoral success of radical-right parties automatically translates to an upswing in anti-immigrant violence or the proliferation of nativist attitudes. Rather, these factors likely provoke reactions based on existing sentiments, whether they are anti-immigration or anti-nativist. Overall, the author finds few documented cases of nativist actors directly affecting immigration policy in all three regions, the reason being that they rarely make it into government, and concludes that the relationship between immigration and extremism is unclear and complex.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. The Main Nativist Actors

A. Western Europe

B. Central and Eastern Europe

C. North America

III. Immigration and the Radical Right

A. Western Europe

B. Central and Eastern Europe

C. North America

IV. Effects of Political Extremism

A. Direct Effects

B. Indirect Effects

V. Public Effects of Nativism

A. Racist Violence

B. Anti-Immigrant Attitudes

VI. Anti-Nativist Reactions

A. Societal Responses

B. State Responses

VII. The Economic Crisis, Immigration, and Nativism

VIII. Conclusion